Carmen turned nine months old on Sunday, the day we were driving home from a three-hour-drive-turned-six-hour-drive (due to holiday traffic and impatient bladders and a five year olds insatiable appetite). We had spent Thanksgiving a few hours north at a lake house my parents have, which is one of those places where you go to relax if you’re not going to be chasing small children up and down a marble staircase and desperately trying to shield them from snakes and bears and alligators, oh my. In other words: my parents can relax, and we did once upon a time before we had kids, but now it’s just exhausting in that “the baby won’t sleep in the travel crib, ohmygosh, have my eyes even closed at all?” kind of way. And while someone like my father revels in what he refers to as “clean country air,” I whine that it shouldn’t take a thirty minute drive to find a Starbucks. In all seriousness, I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth since the election about leaving my blue bubble of South Florida and retreating north to a part of our red state that was celebrating its redness. We were greeted by many signs that made me bite my lip and try to turn away, hoping Ethan wouldn’t read them from the back seat. (“What does ‘re-elect god’ mean?” asked Ethan as we drove. Too late.)
In all of our exhaustion, our children got to sit on Santa’s lap and Ethan got to ask the jolly guy for an electric toothbrush which is one of two items on his wishlist this year. (The other is a game of Yeti in my Spaghetti, which he’s been begging me for since he saw it on the shelves at Target a few months ago.) Carmen decided that Santa was pretty much the only human being she doesn't want near her and pouted through the process, but there was still magic in seeing my children step up and having the photographer let Santa know there would be two children in this family. Last year, the sting of Ethan being the only child without a sibling in the Santa line stung especially hard and I had to excuse myself to the mall bathroom to cry. This year, there they were, my two children clad in matching outfits. For once, Ethan was the one with the smiles and cheer while Carmen stared with a wrinkled brow at the guy in the red suit.
The pictures just kind of mean a lot more than just being pictures, if it makes sense at all.